Form. Material. Color. Photography. Ideas are immaterial substances that restless hands turn into three-dimensional objects.
The exhibition Process! Episode One: Ambrotypes on show at Samsa G. Tuchwaren, Munich, explores the theme of transition through different artistic mediums. Conceived as a path that leads to new conceptual acknowledgments, the showcase involves the visitors into a multi-sensory experience. Entering the 19th century building, originally a repairing factory for luxury sleeping trains, the first thing that strikes you is the industrial smell spreading from the rough concrete walls. Then the looping sound by Sebastian Galante echoing from the basement introduces you to the main installation. Seven ambrotypes hanging from heavy oxidized metal chain surround a 1920’s decompression chamber placed in the middle of the room. Each ambrotype represents a carefully selected garment by Austrian designer Carol Christian Poell, captured by photographers Stefan Milev & Stefan Sappert in a surrealistic game of shadows arranged by set designer and artist Nini Gollong. The two photographers developed the traditional collodion on wet plate technique by experimenting with new chemicals and supports such as a rare type of naturally black glass, wonderfully highlighted by the light installation set up by Ralf Arndt for the exhibition.
In order to achieve 80×60 cm portraits, a surprisingly big format for ambrotypes, Milev & Sappert used hand-made tools that have been specifically released for Process! by a qualified artisan. Under the images, rusty metallic boxes filled with liquid at different states contain the accurate description of the art pieces that take their name from the clothing, which is an artwork itself for its outstanding construction and the pioneering use of treatments and materials. While walking through the photographic gallery the subjects seem to fade away, melt in the blackened glass surfaces, expressing the aristic attempt of going beyond the mere representation of reality, reached with the last ambrotype that shows no more than a ghost of light. As the sight has come to its limits, the touch unveils the unique texture of the rubber block in which Carol Christian Poell himself has dipped the camera’s cartridge as a contribution to the exhibition. Finally the great disclosure happens into the decompression chamber, where a short video documents each production step of the exhibition. By discovering the making process behind the ambrotypes, one realizes the similarities with C.C.P. creations as the final result is non-reproducible and unpredictable ; the photographs also drip and take on unexpected shades like leather in the tanning process.
Faithful to Poell’s critical examination and experimental approach, Process offers an interesting insight on physical metamorphosis, opening the first exhibition cycle of Samsa G. Tuchwaren, which name pays homage to the hero of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis Gregor Samsa.